After the disappointment of yesterday’s early retirement, the #88 Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG crew bounced back in perfect fashion on a sunny afternoon in Germany. Marciello took the start from third place and immediately snatched second from Patric Niederhauser (#25 Saintéloc Junior Team Audi), while Maxime Martin made excellent progress in the #46 Team WRT BMW to leap from eighth to fourth.
A safety car was deployed on the opening lap following a multi-car collision that eliminated the #26 Audi and the #112 McLaren. When racing resumed Marciello was quickly on the rear of pole-sitter Mattia Drudi (#40 Tresor Orange1 Audi), who won yesterday’s opening contest and looked unassailable in qualifying.
But Marciello had the advantage when it came to race pace and completed a well-planned move as the field streamed into the stadium section. Though he did not pull significantly clear, the new leader was unchallenged throughout the first half of the race. His prospects were further improved when the #40 Audi was handed a five-second time penalty for jumping the start.
The mid-race pit window served to shake up the order. Martin and teammate Dries Vanthoor (#32 Team WRT Audi) stopped early, the latter receiving a faster service that allowed Charles Weerts to beat Valentino Rossi back on to the track.
But both cars were jumped by another early stopper, the #11 Comtoyou Racing Audi of Lucas Légeret, which had run sixth during the early stages with Christopher Haase at the wheel. Marciello and Niederhauser were among the last to stop, the #88 Mercedes-AMG returning to a seven-second lead with Boguslavskiy at the wheel. Niederhauser handed the #25 Audi to Erwan Bastard, who emerged behind Légeret but ahead of Weerts in the #32 BMW.
After struggling in traffic during his out lap Boguslavskiy soon settled into a rhythm and maintained the gap to Légeret. The young Swiss had Bastard in his mirrors, though their battle for second did not produce any side-by-side racing. There was still plenty of action, however, as Feller pushed to make up for the lost time. The five-second penalty had dropped the #40 Audi to sixth, but he quickly passed Rossi and set about catching the sister #32 BMW.
It took some time to make his pace advantage tell, but with a little over five minutes left on the clock Feller made the pass. This put Weerts under pressure from Albert Costa (#69 Emil Frey Racing Ferrari), but the BMW driver was able to maintain his composure and defend the position to the chequered flag.
There was a little added drama during the final 15 minutes when Boguslavskiy radioed his crew to inform them that he had lost third gear. His lead diminished by almost a second over the following lap, but he was able to work around the issue and retain a healthy advantage. Indeed, by the time Boguslavskiy took the chequered flag the margin was back up to seven seconds.
Légeret took runner-up spot, just as he and Haase did in Race 2 at Misano, followed by first-time podium finisher Bastard in the #25 Audi. Feller brought the #40 machine home in fourth, minimising the points loss to title rivals Marciello and Boguslavskiy, followed by Weerts, Costa and Rossi. Adrien De Leener made it back-to-back points finishes in the #54 Dinamic GT Porsche ahead of yesterday’s pole-sitter Jordan Pepper (#60 VSR Lamborghini).
Boutsen VDS finished 10th overall with its #9 Audi, giving Aurélien Panis and Alberto di Folco the Gold Cup win. The result is an important boost to their title push, with the rival #30 Team WRT BMW hitting problems and finishing down the order. In the Silver Cup, the #99 Tresor Attempto Racing Audi of Alex Aka and Lorenzo Patrese bounced back from a DNF on Saturday to secure Sunday’s win. Patrese crossed the finish line less than a second ahead of rival Jordan Love (#77 HRT Mercedes-AMG).
The Bronze Cup went to the #79 HRT Mercedes-AMG of Hubert Haupt and Sebastien Baud. Haupt made crucial progress at the start, moving from fifth on the grid to assume the class lead on the opening tour. Baud finished the job, fending off a charging Robert Renauer (#91 Herberth Motorsport Porsche) for the win.
Having seen their championship advantage cut to half a point after this morning’s qualifying session, Marciello and Boguslavskiy leave Hockenheim with a much healthier 9.5-point cushion over Drudi and Feller. Vanthoor and Weerts remain in the hunt for a fourth successive Sprint Cup title, though they now find themselves 17.5 points adrift of the lead with four races remaining.
With the championship contenders now firmly established, the Sprint Cup season continues in two weeks’ time at Circuit Ricardo Tormo Valencia, which will stage a pair of races over the weekend of 15-17 September.